Orlando Bloom began reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a teenager before abandoning the books in favor of sports and girls. He did not complete the three volumes until his early twenties: first in print, and then on camera as one of a handful of actors carefully selected for New Line Cinema's highly anticipated, $270 million, three-film screen adaptation of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The international success of the trilogy's first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), made Bloom a sought-after young actor. The talented Brit works the talk show circuit, mugs in magazines, and appears at every important award show -- always with a playful demeanor and an uncorrupted smile that suggest he could still be just as easily fulfilled by rugby and romance.
Bloom was raised in Canterbury, Kent, with his sister, Samantha. Their mother taught them to enjoy the arts and encouraged them to participate in the local Kent Festival. Bloom began by reciting poetry and prose, displaying an advanced sensitivity to tone and modulation. Yet, it wasn't this precociousness or his frequent trips to the theater that influenced Bloom to become a professional actor. He was in awe of larger-than-life characters -- from Superman to the members of the A-Team -- and knew the only way to become one was to play one on the screen.
At 16, Bloom relocated to London and performed with the National Youth Theatre for two seasons before winning a scholarship to train with the British American Drama Academy. At the conclusion of his term with the group, he played the lead in A Walk in the Vienna Woods, and secured an agent. This led to small roles on British television and an appearance in Brian Gilbert's Wilde (1997). Wishing to further his education, Bloom then enrolled at London's prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama (the alma mater of Ewan McGregor, Joseph Fiennes, and Ben Chaplin, among others). There, he acted in several plays, including Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Chekov's Three Sisters, and Sophocles' Antigone.
While still in school, Bloom was trying to make it onto a friend's rooftop terrace when he fell three stories and broke his back. The accident almost paralyzed the actor, but surgery let him walk out of the hospital on crutches. Soon afterward, all his peers auditioned for coveted roles in the upcoming The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The extensive and selective casting process took place in every English-speaking country. Bloom good-naturedly tried out for the role of Faramir, a character introduced in the second film, The Two Towers (2002). After meeting with the project's director, Peter Jackson, Bloom was not cast as Faramir. Instead, Jackson asked that he read for the part of Legolas Greenleaf, a much more prominent figure who is featured in all three films. The director offered Bloom the role a few weeks later, only two days before the burgeoning star graduated from drama school.
Legolas, Tolkien's warrior elf, has super-human strength, swift reflexes, and heightened sensory awareness. To play him, Bloom trained in archery, swordplay, and horseback riding for two months prior to shooting. He developed a graceful style of combat based on the characters in Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai and worked to manage his posture, poise, and composure. As Legolas, Bloom is immortal, and at 2,931 years old, is a tall, athletic, and skilled fighter of evil -- he truly is larger than life.
After finishing The Lord of the Rings -- all three films, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, were shot simultaneously over 18 months in New Zealand -- Bloom headed to Morocco for a role in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down. The film chronicles the horrific Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, in which a "simple" mission left 18 U.S. soldiers dead and 73 wounded. Debuting his American accent, Bloom plays a neophyte ranger who breaks his back after falling 70 feet from a helicopter. This combat film opened only a few weeks after The Fellowship of the Ring and received equal acclaim.
Following these blockbusters, Bloom performed in several quirky films with limited releases such as Lullaby of Clubland (2001). But it wouldn't be long before Bloom was blowing up the box-office once again with the 2003 crowd-pleaser The Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Bloom showed up opposite Brad Pitt and Black Hawk Dawn costar Eric Bana in the 2004 historical epic Troy, his intense star-power was unquestionable.
Bloom faced a down year in 2005, failing to match the box office success of Troy with Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. That same year he stepped into the role once occupied by Ashton Kutcher in Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, but the film never recovered from the bad press it received after its initial film festival screening, failed to find an audience in theaters, and was unpopular with critics. Bloom rebounded one year later by returning with the other principles in back-to-back filmed sequels for Pirates of the Caribbean, the first of which, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, shattered box office records for opening day and opening weekend, and became the first film to take in one hundred million dollars in just two days. It will hardly strike one as prescient, then, that industry insiders and the trades were advance prepping Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End as one of the most lucrative releases of 2007, possibly of any year.
The actor would appear in more down tempo projects in the coming years, like 2010's Main Street, and 2011's The Good Doctor, before hopping on board another swashbuckler, playing the Duke of Buckhingham in The Three Musketeers. Though the film wasn't a huge success in the States, Bloom would have another franchise ticket to cash in the following year, reprising the role of elf Legolas in the Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit.